07 April, 2012

Side Step...You Haven't Been on an Airplane in How Long?

     (In January I took a trip to California for some video work for a friend.  I was working on two separate shoots, basically riding shotgun with the production team, helping to organise, do odds and ends.  It was a lot of fun, although I will say that Cali drivers are by far the worst I have ever seen.  I lost count of the number of times I was nearly involved in, or the cause of a wreck on the highways and roads.  The following is my thoughts from flying, something I had not done for about 21 years prior to this point.)

The Trip Out:  21-January-2012
     As stated above, I had not flown in about 21 years.  I am mortally petrified of heights, among a few other things.  Because of that, I detest flying.  Besides my nervousness associated with doing the job at hand, the thought of flying set me up for a sleepless night.
     Because of this, you would think Mother nature might provide decent weather so I wouldn't have an added worry.
     Instead, she provides a winter storm.  You know the kind:  Snow...sleet...both at the same freaking time.
    At this point, you can most likely guess my level of happiness.  Oh, and I forgot to mention a fact.  My esteemed friend who I was doing this job for had booked me an early flight.  A real early flight, on the order of a 5:45am departure.  Add my displeasure at this early of a start and you get a large numerical representation of my extreme lack of happiness.  The trip from home to the airport was made in good order and slow speed despite this.
      I spent a bit being confused by getting my ticket.  Turns out I could not read my reservation form, but I figured it out after 3 tries and a walk around the ticketing area.  I smoked one last cigarette in record time cursing the snow before facing up to entering the security area.  I made a joke with friends about receiving a full body cavity search as my 'prize' for not having flown in comparative eons.
     I walked to the first checkpoint and handed over my license and boarding pass/ticket/whatever the Hell that thing is.  I had purposefully picked a female TSA to go to, knowing it would be easier to be cheesy when I asked my almighty question.  Once she was done I said to her, "You are going to laugh when I tell you this, but I haven't flown in 21 years.  What do I need to do to get through with the least amount of pain?"  She did indeed laugh, and politely gave me some pointers.
     For those keeping score, no, I did not receive that full body cavity search in Pittsburgh.
     I reached the gate in a most uneventful fashion.  Staring out the windows, my dismay deepened at the sight of snow and sleet falling as thick as ever.  I spent most of the wait glaring out the window at the snow and sleet, heartily cursing Mother Nature.  I was thus engaged when the plane rolled up and we slid down one gate for boarding.
     The call for general boarding came, and as I moved to the jetway door, a girl asked me a question about her seat.  I answered it to the best of my meager knowledge.  It was then that she informed me this was her first time flying.  I chuckled lightly, asking her how old she was.  When she she told me she was 20, I laughed again and told her how long it had been since I had flown.  Because my voice carries, another lady overheard me making that very statement.  She said, "So you are the reason we have such wonderful weather."  I informed her that there was mostly likely a bet on this point somewhere.
     I am certain that most anyone reading this has flown in winter.  Therefore I will skip the description of the 'Wash n' Wax' process commonly known as deicing.  I found it amusing to watch, but that is just me.  About half an hour elapsed through this process, but we soon taxied out and took off.
     As we climbed for altitude, a worrisome thought appeared.  Knowing our takeoff at Pittsburgh was delayed by about 30 minutes, I wondered about the Houston airport and how I would make my connecting flight.  When Mike booked my flight, I only had a 56 minute window to start with at Houston.  This disturbing thought rattled in my head as we came out above the clouds to daylight breaking and a crescent moon.
     For anyone wondering, my stomach was fine.  Once again my cast iron constitution held.  I barely managed nauseous.
     Looking out the window, I found myself almost able to believe I was not flying.  In an odd twist, the sea came to mind.  I am also patiently terrified of water, so this connection made little sense to me.  In it's own way, it was amusing and comforting enough that I was able to nap briefly, despite my lingering fear about my connecting flight.

     Looking at the time upon arrival in Houston, I began to worry.  We had indeed lost those 30 minutes, which caused fret for me.  My mother and brother had gone to Utah by way of Houston a few months back.  The horror story they told me of the size of the airport and getting through it lodged firmly in my consciousness.  I talked to the young woman I had spoken briefly to upon boarding, and found she had only 10 minutes to find her connecting flight.  I sincerely hope she made it.
     At this point I must tell a point against myself.  I nearly forgot my carry on luggage, which had been stowed in a different area on the plane.  At the last possible moment I remembered it, and nabbed it.  Racing away from the scene of my near bout of stupidity, I heard the seconds tick by (Very) loudly in my head.  I had to stop and make sure I was proceeding down the right path.  Confirmation acquired, I boarded a tram for a quick trip to some other part of the large airport at Houston.  While running through the airport, I learned something.  It is rather undignified to attempt running with a huge laptop bag and dragging a small suitcase behind you.
     Thankfully, dignity is not something I subscribe to.  The subscription rate was too high, and the free gift sucked.
     I made the flight, being the last person to board.  The first plane I was on was a smaller jet, which I likened to a sardine can.  Now I found myself on a 737 with a bit more room, not to mention people.  Also on the 737 was little TV screens which you could buy programming for.  Annoyed by it flashing, I managed to turn off the contemptible little things.  While thus engaged, we made another uneventful takeoff.
     Climbing for altitude, I realised with morbid fascination why I had not been too unnerved with the height of the plane.  On the way to Houston, I never saw the ground.  The clouds obscured the ground quite well and stretched all the way to Houston.  Even on landing approach, I hardly saw the ground as the place was cloaked in fog.  Now as we made away from Houston, the skies cleared and I could see the ground.  This became fascinatingly unnerving for me.
     Staring at the ground as we headed towards California, I watched the vista change to desert.  I smiled in the midst of a calculation of damage I would incur from the height we were at.  I realised that I had never actually seen a desert before, except on TV.
     The flight to Cali was an uneventful one, excepting as we came in over the mountains for approach to the Orange County airport.  We bumped along pretty good which reminded me of driving on Pennsylvania's roads.  We rolled up to the terminal, the name of the airport prompting a snicker from me.  If you don't know why, I am not going to explain it.

The Trip Back:  26-January-2012
     I left California at a much more reasonable time, even though it would be pretty late when I got home.  I dropped off the rental and passed through airport security with no hassle.  Best of all, no full body cavity search at this airport either.  The only thing of note that occurred was me making a comment to the TSA agent about my name as it appears on my drivers license.  This prompted a chuckle from him as I went on my way. (And no, I am not telling you if you don't already know.)
     I decided to eat this time before getting on the plane.  On the trip out, I did not bother eating until I was in Cali and paid for it by being woozy and even more brain dead than normal.  Talking with my boss Mike, we had an amusing time making fun of people.  We also had an amusing time with why the fire alarm seemed to be going off.  I personally voted for them coming to take me away for my missed full body cavity search.
     Going from Cali to Houston passed supremely uneventfully.  The flight was not really bumpy, I was able to turn the screens off to stop annoying me, and the baby next to me did not scream hardly at all.  The only hiccup on this leg of the trip occurred after landing.  On our way to the gate, we were forced to sit, as the gate was not clear.  Once again I found myself sitting and watching time tick by with another short window to catch a flight.  After about a good 30 minutes, we pulled up and disembarked.
     Once again I found myself in Houston.  Once again I found myself doing a rapid march across the airport.  I felt like I was in some sort of repeat.  This time I managed to make it when they were calling general boarding.  I lucked out and had an extra seat to myself for the last leg of the journey so I spread out.  The only thing of note was the turbulence the whole way to Pittsburgh.  The woman sitting beside me did scare me a bit too, as I thought she might be ill.  Cast iron constitution or not, had she lost her lunch, I probably would have lost mine.
     As you can guess, arriving at Pittsburgh passed quietly.
     I know this portion of the narrative is short, but for some reason the flights home were far less interesting than those out.  I did write in a notebook on the flight to Pittsburgh in the turbulence.  All I can say for it is that my normally bad handwriting looked more like Sumerian cuneiform.  I am hoping that I will need to hire someone skilled in the art of translating ancient script to unlock what I was working on.

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